Grow along with Zipcar


the zipcar garden continues…

No man’s opinion on any subject is worth a damn unless backed up with enough genuine information to make him really know what he’s talking about”.. so opined the fantastical novelist and author, H.P. Lovecraft. One can only assume that Margaret Atwood was therefore up to her elbows in horticulture when she stated that “Gardening is not a rational act”.

Zipcar logo vegetable art
Branded Veg. Like Art Attack but without Neil Buchanan

As unashamedly-irrational, amateur horticulturists, we here at the Zipcar garden have spent the last 4 months doing our very best to cultivate a veg patch that is not only a relaxing and meditative experience but also a rewarding and sustainable source of food.

We had two simple criteria for our veg, to grow things that are: 1) otherwise expensive to buy 2) actually likely to grow during a British summer. And though the summer season began with a 'snowy-spring' (probably best get used to that phrase) and continued with enough rain to cause Noah some problems, the sun fought its way through the cloud and has given us 6 weeks of fairly glorious sunshine. Consequently, our modest patches have produced the goods.

Six things we’ve learned about growing vegetables:


When the instructions say “plant 90cms apart” don’t scoff and snort with derision, assuming that the instructions don’t really know what they’re talking about and were probably written by a pencil-pushing jobsworth in an office block somewhere on an industrial estate. As it turns out, if you’re going to grow Courgettes, 90cm apart means 90cm apart. And even then they’ll just keep spreading and growing at such a rate that you would be forgiven for assuming that the ground really didn’t want courgettes in it and is instead pushing them out towards the sky with an unparalleled relentlessness.

Vegetable planters
Breaking all the '90cms apart' rules - horticultural rebels


Planting broccoli next to onions isn’t the best plan if, as above, you’ve foolishly dismissed the instructions whilst making remarks like “Ha, they’re only tiny.. Let’s just do 20cms apart”. What happens next is that your broccoli grow into Triffid-esque giants whilst laying their big, selfish leaves all across your poor, submissive onions, depriving them of sunlight. Though you can always get revenge by decapitating and then devouring said broccoli. It might sound extreme but you’ll be teaching the other veg a lesson whilst enjoying a tasty meal. If you’re really perverse, you can boil and eat the broccoli whilst the other veg watch.

Brocoli vs. onions in garden
brocoli vs. onions - grow big or grow home


Vegetable plants don’t understand basic instruction. Simply placing a few canes next to peas or beans for them to climb does not mean that they will pay any heed to your intentions or readily provided frameworks. We’ve used countless metres of garden wire attaching one to the other, and even then they’re nothing if not disinterested. This means you’ll be out in the garden daily, gently persuading little hooks of green stem onto various canes. Whilst the wind gently persuades them off again once you’ve turned the other way in a false sense of accomplishment.


Broccoli flowers. If you leave it for long enough on the stem once it’s grown, it blooms with lovely yellow flowers. Great for colour, nice for the bees, but you can’t eat them when they’ve flowered (well, you could but…). We were fortunate enough to have enough growing that we could afford to leave a few for the bees – they need all the help they can get!

Bee on flower
To bee or not to bee. No, just one bee twice.


If you leave courgettes long enough, they turn into marrows. Quite where the line between courgette and marrow is, we’re yet to discover but apparently courgettes stop at around 5 inches. And when we say “stop”, we mean you have to cut them when they’re at that length. If you say “I don’t need a courgette today, I’ll leave it on the plant until the weekend” then you’ll end up saying “Anyone know how to cook a marrow?”, followed shortly by “Would anyone like a spare marrow?”.

Yellow and green zucchini
a marrow escape


Peas, beans and tomatoes are relatively easy, low maintenance and tasty veg to grow. And they will all grow successfully in this climate. They also don’t need much space as they all grow vertically, so all they really need is some supporting structures to be disinterested in, sunlight and water.

peas and green tomatoes on the vine
peas and green tomatoes on the vine

Next time:

We've been lucky enough to reap what we've sown (so far), with the beds bringing us peas, marrows, courgettes, raspberries and broccoli (white and purple). Next time we'll be harvesting the garlic and onions, ripe tomatoes, hopefully some red peppers and French dwarf beans. In the meantime, we'd love to hear about any forays you may have taken into the irrational world of gardening, and any tips or pics you have to share.



Gardener's Zipstertime

Previous Zipcar Garden Posts:

April - The history of the Zipcar garden & planning for 2013

May - Building the beds and planting, and meet Ted (security).

June - The sun came out! Cue growth and photos with a warm hue.

July - Andy Murray won wimbledon! Oh, and there was lots of sun and growth.

Useful Links:

RHS August To-Do list

How to plant a Herb Pot in 10 easy steps

RHS Vegetable Planner

BBC ‘Dig In’ Grow your Own Information

BBC Radio 4 - Gardeners' Question Time

UK Gardening tips & information

Gardeners' World:

Did you know that green-fingered Zipcar members can find fresh inspiration with our new member benefit from Gardeners’ World? Get 12 issues of the UK’s biggest selling gardening magazine for just £28 – that’s 40% off the cover price. Packed full of practical advice, subscribe today and your garden will soon be bloomingly better than the Zipcar Garden.

Click here to find out more

Fresh Summer Recipes:

Don't forget to check out our fresh summer recipes for some tasty treats!